Category: 1920 : CHALLENGE N°13


Cup Series Is Now Tied; Deciding Contest To-day.

SATURDAY, JULY 24, 1920 - It was a runaway race, from the start off Ambrose Lightship, where the defender danced away from the snub-nosed, green boat at the start and flitted into the face of the ten-knot wind.

Not once during the thirty miles did Shamrock seem to have a chance. Resolute sailed across the finish line three minutes and eighteen seconds ahead of the challenger on actual elapsed time, with her balloon jib arched and the remainder of her canvas set as gracefully as a gull's wings.

There was a blind curtain of fog over the sector of sea near the lightship at the time set for the race. The fleet of attending craft felt around in it cautiously, guiding themselves by the moan of the lightship's whistle. The Victoria always hovered close to the starting line.

The yachts were lost to view on the trip from Sandy Hook to the lightship and felt their way out beyond the mark. The white curtain lifted gradually, and Shamrock first showed her outlines through the lifting mists. The sun broke out suddenly and Resolute came up in a silvery sheen.

Resolute Is Off First

At last the starting signal went upon the officials' tug. the Baryton. The clearing of the seas was swift, and when the fog was lifted there was ten-knot wind blowing, and it rose steadily to fifteen knots. Resolute was over the line first as though she were a living thing imbued with the true racing spirit, to get out into the lead and stay there.

The first leg was windward work, and cajoling the wind always has been a task at which Resolute, with Captain Adams, has beaten Shamrock and Captain Burton. The sloops stood off toward the Jersey shore again, a familiar stretch, as, it was very similar to the first leg sailed in the first triangular race.

The breeze freshened steadily as the yachts worked into it and Resolute gained as steadily. At the first mark Resolute swept around more than two minutes before Shamrock came up and the defender started on the short reach of the second leg. Here Shamrock began to close up that wide expanse of slate colored water that lay between them, but the closing up was so painfully gradual that it was hardly perceptible. The graceful defender was jealous of her lead and ran like a slender dryad from the pursuit of a clumsy satyr.

Challenger Makes Gains Slowly

The challenger might have lost at the second mark, but the victory of Resolute might not have been so overwhelming. In the second leg Shamrock had made up less than a minute and was still nearly a quarter of a mile astern of Resolute when the reach for home started. She was gaining, was the challenger, but slowly and laboriously.

She never could have gained enough to make up that handicap of six minutes and forty seconds with the wind holding or even with the wind rising gradually. Resolute was speeding at her top gait, beautifully and steadily. Nothing propelled by winds could beat her with that time allowance from that point yesterday.
The skies ahead glowered and blackened. The seas ran heavily and thunder crashed off in the direction of the mark. Weather diagnosticians on the attendant boats disagreed as to what that rapidly advancing dark cloud portended.

On Shamrock Captain Burton passed his judgment slowly and uncertainly from the external evidences. "Something is happening to Shamrock's top!" they cried on the destroyer Semmes. The club-topsail wavered and suddenly was dropped.

"He's taking it in," they said. "He is afraid that it will not stand the strain." "He's wise," said half. "He's unwise," said the other half.

Resolute's Topsail Stays Up

There was no external evidence as to the decision of Captain Charles Francis Adams. The pelting rain had driven most of the watchers on the Semmes to cover, but they peered out across the blackened seas waiting the decision of Adams. When the sun came out again the topsail, like that certain flag at a certain fort, was still there. And they passed the word that the topsail of Resolute was still there.

Cautiously they proceeded with Shamrock while the squall raged around. In the meantime the defender was running fast and free through the rushing waters.

The top stayed up in the black shadows, a plume of Navarre, a Star-Spangled Banner through the storm. In the meantime the stripped and shuddering Shamrock lagged behind. Resolute dared and Shamrock refused to take a chance, thereby doubly losing a race that was already lost.

It was here that the Victoria steamed to the fore and led the attendant boats to the finish line. When Resolute came out of the blackness with her top held proudly erect the red and white lightship loomed up barely two miles away, and it was over. The defender had met the elements in their angriest mood and had bluffed them out with her slender-looking spars and that canvas that looked like a thin silver film.

Defender in Brilliant Dash

Resolute's ballooner swept her over the water like the full spread of a gull. Shamrock, throwing out the spinnaker as well as the ballooner, had the spread of an albatross by comparison, but she never could catch Resolute in anything shorter than the long, long flight of an albatross.

Sir Thomas Lipton waved his cap from the bridge of the Victoria as Resolute came up to the finishing line and the Victoria's whistle, choking a bit at the start, led the welcome in steam. Close by the John F. Hylan spurted out white vapors, but made no noise, for the Hylan -- an astonishing thing -- seemed to have lost its voice. All of the fleet joined in the welcome.

Then there was a long silence while they waited for Shamrock to come up. Even with the vast spread of canvas she came slowly after that brilliant dash of the defender. The greeting the whistles gave her seemed ironical under the circumstances. They shrilled like on accusation and the demonstration somehow seemed like a mockery. It must have sounded that way to Sir Thomas.

It was a freak squall that brought about the emergency which gave the rival captains a chance to make their widely different decisions. It fooled the native pilot that Captain William P. Burton carried with him. But with the time allowance, Captain Burton would hardly have been able to make up what he had lost in the beat to windward. It was Resolute's day from the start. The squall merely served to show in a theatrical fashion that Resolute, her skipper and her crew were ready to take a chance with the gambling spirit of the American navy, professional and amateur.

Shamrock's Only Chance

With a breeze to-day the last act of the America's Cup drama will be staged. Mathematically the sloops are on even terms, but here the arithmetic lies again. The arithmetic said that Shamrock, boat for boat, was faster than Resolute. This is shown to be a misstatement of fact. Yesterday demonstrated clearly that the fact that the boats have won two races apiece means nothing at all in the history of the America's Cup.

Experts hold that yesterday was Shamrock's only chance and in this assertion the. experts seem to be absolutely right. Shamrock won one race over the triangular course. But the battle to-morrow is a beat to windward and back, and on this course Resolute has shown she can gain enough on the windward beat to offset any gain that the challenger may make up on the reach to the finish, because of her time allowance.

So it looks very much as though the America's Cup would stay on this side of the Atlantic until it crumbles. Certainly it will stay here -- other things being equal -- while they breed heirs of John Paul Jones, Farragut and Admiral Dewey, who are willing to slap a lowering destiny in the face with a filmy canvas and a slender spar.